07/06/2007 11:00PM

Fort Prado cuts it close


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A daunting weight assignment and a speed horse loose on the lead could not prevent Fort Prado from winning the Black Tie Affair Handicap for the third straight season. But this was even closer than last year.

In 2006, Fort Prado gutted out a neck victory, but Saturday, starting as the 4-5 favorite in the $84,150 Black Tie Affair, Fort Prado needed every bit of the Arlington stretch to tag Tenpointfive, who set a slow pace, and was getting 13 pounds from Fort Prado, the 125-pound highweight. A final lunge, and Fort Prado was home by a nose, winning a stakes on Arlington's Prairie State Festival for Illinois-breds for the fourth consecutive year.

"This horse has never let us down," said Chris Block, who trains Fort Prado for his family's racing partnership, Team Block. "He's one of the best we've ever had."

Tenpointfive had only won a $25,000 turf claiming race in his lone start this meet, but in 2006 he had captured three straight Arlington turf races in front-running fashion, and in November wired the Illinois-bred High Alexander Stakes on the Hawthorne dirt. So, when Tenpointive galloped along in front through a half-mile in 49.15 seconds, and Fort Prado was fifth, some eight lengths behind, the advantage was fully in Tenpointfive's favor. But jockey Eddie Razo started moving on Fort Prado midway around the far turn, cut the corner coming into the stretch, and after steadying slightly, took aim at Tenpointfive. The front-runner still had something left, but Fort Prado - as usual - got there.

Fort Prado paid $3.60 to win, and was timed in 1:42.69 for 1 1/16 miles on firm turf. Majestic Zeal was third by two lengths.

White Oak: High Expectations again

A half-hour after Fort Prado won his third straight Black Tie Affair, High Expectations won his second straight White Oak Handicap, paying a generous $7 to win while beating surprise favorite Caruso by a half-length.

High Expectations is a Silky Sullivan sort, always laying last early in his sprint races. Saturday was no exception, and though the pace in the six-furlong White Oak wasn't frantic, it was fast enough. Big Glori gunned to the front, Out for a Spin made an early move to challenge, and Caruso sat a close third through a quarter in 22.72 seconds and a half in 45.96. Caruso had the momentum coming into the stretch, and made the front at about the three-sixteenths pole, wandering toward the rail as he went clear. But that was just when High Expectations was hitting his stride under Chris Emigh. Fourth at the stretch call, he pushed past in the final 50 yards, getting his six furlongs in 1:10.84.

Caruso, a 3-year-old facing older horses, ran well in defeat, as did Last Gran Standing, who was another half-length back in third.

Lincoln Heritage: Royal Leah wins

A powerful victory over open allowance horses last fall at Churchill Downs suggested Royal Leah was good enough to win the Lincoln Heritage Stakes if she put a complete race together. And in her first stakes race, Royal Leah turned in a peak performance, capturing the $83,950 Lincoln Heritage by a half-length over Lampoon, who was a nose better than her stablemate Now.

Heavy favorite You Dancing Devil already was a beaten horse when she got into a tight spot in deep stretch. A disqualification moved her up from sixth to fifth.

Royal Leah ($9), trained by Mike Stidham and ridden by Jesse Campbell, started a sustained run at about the quarter pole, and by the furlong marker looked like a sure winner.

Springfield: 'Chester' prompt fave

Gentleman Chester took an absurd amount of betting action in the $88,300 Springfield Stakes - then went out and showed why he was even money. Relaxed in mid-pack behind a modest early pace, Gentleman Chester burst to the lead at the three-sixteenths pole and went on to a 3 1/4-length victory in his first start against Illinois-breds. Gentleman Chester, based in Kentucky with trainer Ralph Nicks, paid $4 to win, and was timed in 1:37.63 for one mile on Polytrack. Longshot Wayoff was second, Stonehouse third.

Purple Violet: Magnetic Miss, easily

With help from a slow early pace, Magnetic Miss won the $84,800 Purple Violet for the veteran team of trainer Spanky Broussard and 60-year-old jockey Earlie Fires.

Magnetic Miss went a wind-aided opening quarter-mile of 23.99 seconds in the Purple Violet, a one-turn mile for 3-year-old fillies. Secret Kin started a solid move at the three-eighths pole, but Magnetic Miss was long gone, and ran on to a 4 1/4-length victory. She paid $7.60 to win, and was timed in 1:37.49. Favored Lil Cora Tee was third.

Isaac Murphy: Two for Janks

Janks won her second stakes of the day when Modjadji edged entrymate Pretty Jenny in the $83,750 Isaac Murphy Handicap. The favored entry paid $4.40 to win, with Modjadji timed in 1:10.91 for six furlongs. Second choice Bluesbdancing finished third.